1st August, 2016
I was disappointed with the exhibition of the work of American painter Georgia O’Keefe. My daughter enjoyed it but I felt the Painting selection didn't represent her well.
I had been building up to the exhibition, feeling ecstatic about its timing coinciding with our visit but there were very few flower paintings — there was a Calla Lily in a vase, three different renditions, her famous double poppy painting, fiery reds, oranges and black which was satisfying, and her famous first painting of the white convolvulus which she said she painted to monumentalise the flower and make people look more closely at their form.
1st August, 2016
Always when travelling overseas there are decisions to be made about what to see and what to do and sometimes a compromise has to be reached.
Because it takes so long to get to Europe and involves considerable cost, not to mention the stamina required to get out, everyday, and see things this places pressure on the decision-making process. Time is precious. We may not be back this way again. What can I cope with never ever seeing? Then once you're on the journey it is impossible to avoid the inevitable hiccoughs and disappointments.
7th August, 2016
I stayed up very late on Thursday, actually until the beginning of Friday morning writing in a blue tower in the hotel in Amsterdam, finishing my London impressions. By some miracle the bedroom on the third floor of the hotel, had a writing desk, and lamp, in a bow window, that was shaped like a turret.
There were six panes of glass on three sides with views down to the canal running silently beneath and across the water, to the black and white buildings, the stone towers and copper domes on the far side. While Julian lay sleeping in the room behind me, the blue velvet curtains at my back closed, I worked on with the window open listening to the sounds of the night — bicycle bells, a car revving, people’s voices muffled… I was very tired and having difficulty deciding what to include, what to skim over and what to cut from the London entry but the nightlife unfolding in the blue light spurred me on.
9th August, 2016
It is over and I could weep.
I have admired the work of Piet Oudolf from a distance for a long time and dreamt of visiting his own garden near Hummelo in the Netherlands, but had thought it impossible. Some years ago I was stopped in my tracks by a neuropathic pain in my sciatic nerve that was made worse by an accident and then worse again following surgery.
10th August, 2016
There is, at last, more time to write as I am on a plane again, this time departing from Schipol Airport, Amsterdam and flying to Geneva to see family in Yverdon. The thing I enjoy about flying in Europe is the complete absence of safety videos with an All Blacks theme. I dislike them. I find them corny and pointless. The only segment of an Air New Zealand instructional film that appeals to me is the footage of the kiwi surfer Ricardo Christie. I like his blue eyes and his shoulder length, wavy, blonde hair and the way he smiles broadly, as the four wheel drive he is steering bounces over a dirt track by the sea.
19th August, 2016
It was a swift trip by car, from Geneva to Yverdon, to the home of my husband’s twin brother, Jason and his German wife Marita and their two children, Lionel and Claire. It had rained on and off in London and Amsterdam where the temperatures hovered around the low twenties but emerging from the airport terminal today, we stepped into a wave of high heat and a bright blue, sun-soaked atmosphere. Summertime in Switzerland.
21st August, 2016
The Paul Klee museum, Zentrum Paul Klee, is situated in a field on the edge of the city of Bern. You hardly know it’s there because it is embedded in a meadow. The roofline is a series of three giant wave-like forms that emerge, rolling, from the ground so it seems a part of nature. It’s not until you reach the entrance that the building makes its presence felt.
The story of the realisation of this great museum and art centre is inspiring. It was designed by the Italian architect and engineer Renzo Piano, who was also one of the joint architects involved in the design of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1971) and completed in 2005, just one year ahead of a deadline set by Livia Klee-Meyer the wife of Paul Klee’s only son Felix, and Alexander Klee, the artist’s grandson. When they offered their collection of 690 art works to the city of Bern, in 1998, it was on the condition that a purpose built gallery and study centre, for the arts, must be built to house the collection by 2006.
23rd August, 2016
I’m not managing to find time to write in my journal. The schedule my sister-in-law has conceived for us is full and brilliant, one with all the colour and light and shade of an Edouard Manet panting of Dejeuner sur l’herbe. And this is as it should be on a holiday.
The problem for my journalling is that there is no time for reflection and writing. The days are long, the evenings of food consumption stretch out and I wouldn’t miss Marita’s fresh plum and apricot and almond tart, or her white nectarine and redcurrant crumble, both served up with mascarpone and runny cream, for anything — but by the time I arrive back at the hotel I’m too tired to apply myself to anything much and end up writing scrappy notes, and attacking journal entries in retrospect, which is the nature of this work, of course.
25th August, 2015
It was Richard Wagner’s house that we visited long ago in Switzerland, not Liszt’s home, and it was situated at Tribschen on Lake Lucerne, not on the outskirts of Bern, as I’d first thought. This is where having a long-time relationship with someone is a very good thing, especially for a writer engaged in a memoir project, because the shared history is of great assistance when you are trying to surmount the memory blanks and even more importantly when you wish to verify the dimly-remembered fragments that seem more like dream than reality. There is such a sense of relief when you find that you’re not imagining things.
29th August, 2016
There is time for writing in the moment, on the pulse, at last. I’m aboard a boat that is ferrying me over le lac Léman from Cully to Chillon, to see a medieval castle perched on a rocky island. It was Marita’s idea to go here. The last time they visited the chateau their son Lionel, now almost sixteen, was a small boy wearing a Halloween suit. They remember him leaping through the dungeon in his ghost outfit, attracting smiles from the other visitors.
I’m feeling very excited about this outing. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside a medieval castle and fortress and this particular chateau is extra special. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage listed building that was constructed in three stages over 700 years. Sometimes on the Arts Channel back home I catch a clip about a UNESCO world heritage site, with aerial shots taken from a balloon and I look on in awe. Now I’m going to see one for myself, a treasured building that dates from 1150 and was the work of the French House of Savoy and also it has a link to the poet Lord Byron who wrote a famous poem ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’ about the prison that is situated in the dank, dark depths of the castle complex on the actual rock of the island.